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The African Fish Eagle

Embarking on a safari adventure in Africa offers a kaleidoscope of wildlife experiences, but few are as awe-inspiring as witnessing the African Fish Eagle in its natural habitat. Known for its distinctive call, often described as the “sound of Africa,” the African Fish Eagle holds a place of pride as one of the continent’s most iconic raptors.

The African Fish Eagle is indigenous to sub-Saharan Africa and is found wherever there are large quantities of fish such as freshwater lakes, rivers and lagoons. The African Fish Eagle is very large with a wingspan of about 2m (6 feet). The body is mostly brown with very large and powerful black wings. What makes it so distinguishable is the head, breast and tail that are pure white.

A Must-See for birdwatchers

For bird enthusiasts and photographers, the African Fish Eagle is a must-see species, providing captivating scenes to observe and capture. Its presence enhances the safari experience, adding a memorable dimension to the African wilderness exploration.

Due to its diet of fish, it has a hook-shaped beak and extraordinarily powerful talons. One may have seen many wildlife videos of this amazing bird when it swoops down to the lake and scoops up an unsuspecting fish in its powerful talons – an amazing sight to behold. With its distinctive cry that sends chills down your spine on any African safari.

Where to spot the African Fish Eagle

You will mostly spot the bird perched high in a tall tree, surveying its territory and watching the waters below trying to spot its prey. Once spotted it swoops down low over the water and throws its feet forward, catching the prey in its talons. The prey will be carried in the air to a higher perch, if it is not too much of a large catch, otherwise it will be dragged through the water to the shoreline.

Best countries in Africa for African Fish Eagle sightings

Safaris around water bodies like Lake Malawi, Lake Kariba, the Okavango Delta, and Lake Naivasha provide excellent opportunities to observe these eagles in action. Early morning or late afternoon, when the eagles are most active, is the best time to witness their hunting routine.

Lake Kariba Fish Eagle

Mating and reproducing

The male and female mate for life and are often seen in pairs sharing a kill made by either one of them. They breed during the dry season and nest in large trees that can support their substantial nests. The female lays one to three eggs. The chicks hatch individually over a few days, and the eldest one often eats the first born. After a mere two weeks the chick is strong enough to feed itself and after one month it can spread its wings and leave the nest.

Cultural significance

Beyond its physical allure, the African Fish Eagle holds symbolic significance in many African cultures, representing strength, vision, and freedom. Its image adorns national emblems and flags, underlining its importance in African heritage.


About Bronwyn Paxton

Article by: Bronwyn Paxton
on March 26, 2024
Filed under  Africa Blog 
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